One of the regular events at the Northern Colorado Writers Studio is the monthly Open Mic Night where five or six writers get to read eight minutes worth of their work and get silent feedback from an audience.
The silent critique process takes two minutes at the end of each reading, and comments are written on file cards. At the end of the readings, cards are sorted and distributed so the readers can review the instant reactions to their presentations. We leave time at the end of the evening to chat, discuss the authors' work, and, of course, have refreshments.
I try to comment on the overall content of the piece as well as the presentation, and I strive to identify the main strength of the piece. Sometimes I will mention something that needs work, but I always try to present that "criticism" in a supportive and positive way. The idea here is to nurture and encourage writers at all levels.
So far, I've read once, and attended all but one as a listener. Friday night was especially interesting because two teen writers were brave enough to read to us. And now the Open Mic Night leaders have extended an invitation to the NCW Teen Writers Critique Group to provide us with a full slate of readers in April.
Young writers are fresh and exciting, and they are no more or less nervous to read in front of a group of strangers than the rest of us. The two young ladies who presented Friday night were so charming, and their work interesting and unique. They reminded me of the end of NaNoWriMo party I attended in 2009 where nearly half of the participants who completed their 50,000 words were teens (most of them writing fantasy).
If you've never attended an Open Mic Night for authors, consider working with your local writers' organization, public library, or a coffee shop to get one started. And when you do, don't forget to invite the teen writers in your community. You'll be so glad you did.
And Happy Valentine's Day, too. I wish you roses, chocolate, and much love.